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01 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

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(AP) Washington – The White House announced today a new program designed to spur recovery in Afghanistan.  “Helping Afghanistan with Homosexuals” or HAH is intended to help rebuild the war torn nation.

“Homosexuals have a long history of urban renewal,” said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.  “From New York to San Diego, Chicago to San Francisco, homosexuals have a long history of moving into blighted areas and making them desirable neighborhoods.  Look at Atlanta – no body ever wanted to live there until the homosexuals moved in.  Now it’s the hottest spot in the nation.  HAH will turn Kabul into the most attractive city in Southern Asia.”

According to the White House press statement, it is a well-established fact that most interior designers, all fashion designers, most architects and almost all actors are faggots.  Given this, says the White House, they are perfect to be shipped to Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan is suffering from too much brown and too much dirt,” said an anonymous White House source and member of the ex-gay movement.  “Finally, this is a way homosexuals can promote national security, by helping accessorize those drab Afghanis.”

Sources outside the White House indicate HAH may not be staffed by volunteers, however.  Over the weekend, several minor, left-wing, web journalists disappeared from their homes and reports from northern Afghanistan tell of strangely dressed Americans appearing from Army CH-47 helicopters. 

 “These aren’t soldiers,” said a villager.  “They don’t have guns and some of the men are wearing the veil.  We told them the veil is for women, but they don’t seem to understand.”

Despite helpful planeloads of track lighting and scented candles waiting on the tarmac in Islamabad, HAH participants may have another obstacle to face.  Sources with the CIA indicate the Bush Administration has arranged for extremist factions in Afghanistan to push walls over on the volunteers when the job is done. 

“It would be a shame not to honor this Afghani tradition,” said the source as he sat in his oval office.  “Besides, it’s one thing to have a homosexual decorate your house or do your hair, it’s quite another to let them think they are the same as the rest of us.”

01 April 2002 - Later  (Link to this entry) (Comment)

God gives nothing to those who keep their arms crossed.”  - West African saying. 

It seems my Easter entry has generated a fair bit of controversy.  My email box has been filled with notes from people on both sides of the debate.  The most vociferous emails have come from people who I suspect did not read the entire entry or if they did, they should have also read this entry

I don’t agree with all the Catholic Church has to say, in fact I often disagree quite strongly with some of its teachings.  At the same time, I often do agree with the work many Catholics are doing to create a more just world.  Challenging corporate power, working to overturn the death penalty, feeding children and caring for the poor, there are many Catholics who share common ideas with many in the queer community.  Perhaps more importantly, many people find great spiritual solace in the Catholic faith. 
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At the same time, Catholic teachings on homosexuality and the resulting oppression and exclusion have created a great deal of anger in the queer community.  This anger often is voiced in vociferous attacks that swing the ax widely – severing any potential connection with those who might otherwise share some of our ideals.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have, for the most part, worked diligently over the past two decades to create a better world.  In projects to numerous to name, the Sisters have provided talent, money and support to a diverse community of people – including some Catholic charities. 

Over the years, the Sisters have created humorous events that draw on Catholic traditions, some of which are quite sacred to the Catholics.  Without commenting on intent or history, the reality is that when the Catholic Church criticizes the Sisters, it is these events they mention. 

So the question is, how can we begin to move past our history of shared disdain and start to build a connection to those in the church who may share our vision, even if we disagree on some aspects of life?  Is there a way to create dialogue that might lead some day to reconciliation?  Can we recognize the value of the spiritual solace that people find in the Church for those individuals?

I believe our future can only be better, the potential for change increased, when we build such connections.  If doing so means we set aside certain activities or events that offend, then let us take that first step.   Nothing compels us to do so; we certainly can choose not to do anything and allow the status quo to remain.  Is this what we really value?  If we wait for the other side to be the first to move, we will spend decades more staring at each other with anger in our eyes and hatred in our hearts.

Easter is just a day, one out of many in our lifetimes.  We are the ones who give it history and importance. 

Common folk, not statesmen, nor generals, nor great men of affairs, but just simple men and women, if they devote themselves...can do something to build a better peaceful world.”  - Henry Cadbury, 1947.

...we must remember, truth without love is violence.  And love without truth is sentimentality.”  - Muriel Bishop, 1990.

02 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I spent Easter weekend with a friend at the Russian River.  Several months have passed since my last road trip and it was fun jaunting about the back roads of Sonoma County.  We navigated winding Highway 1 to Bodega Bay (where “The Birds” was filmed) and I fulfilled a desire to see a film at the Rio Theatre, a movie theatre that is really a Quonset hut, in the town of Monte Rio (population 1,150). 
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Having spent the better part of a decade in the Navy, I’ve seen a lot of the world.  Even so, there are large portions of this country I have never seen.  I’ve nursed a fantasy to drive across the country, north to south and east to west.  This weekend I decided it was time to stop thinking about this and start planning the trip. 

The planning for Road Trip 2003 begins here

I intend to have a giant motor home, stocked to the gills and full of space.  So, if Road Trip 2003 comes through your neck of the woods, let me know and perhaps you can climb aboard for a stretch.  Big sunglasses are required.  Big wigs are optional.

Thursday is Ba-da-Bingo and my apartment is starting to look like a strange dance club with all the supplies.  We’re putting on quite a show this month and if you don’t live in San Francisco, we’re going to attempt to broadcast it live via the web from 7 pm until 9 pm Pacific Time.  You can get to the live web cam site by clicking here.  (This also happens to be the web cam in my office, so if you have too much time on your hands during the day, you can watch me when I’m in the office and not with clients.)  If you’re in San Francisco, you’d be a fool to miss this show.

On Friday I’ll tell you a funny story about something that happened today while I was testing the equipment for the show.  If I told you now, it would give away a big surprise so you’ll have to check back late in the week.

“Why do inclusive persons want to call God the Father ‘He/She’ but seem perfectly content with calling the devil a ‘He’?” – Unknown source.
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02 April 2002 - Later

Road Trip 2003 is now graphically pleasing and fully functional.  Much better than the earlier edition.  When you finish reading today's entry, take a look.

03 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

There is a disco ball in my living room nearly as large as my recliner.  It’s just one of several pieces of gear that are making my house look like a material storage locker for a John Travolta film.  All of this is for Ba-da-Bingo tomorrow night.  (If you live in San Francisco, don’t miss it!) A Belgian film crew has come from Europe to film Ba-da-Bingo – I am always amazed this event we started three years ago has such an audience. 
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On an entirely different subject:  Over the years, I’ve belonged to a number of community groups.  It seems they all suffer from some degree of dysfunction, some more than others.  In an environment where no clear authority structure exists, people are volunteering their time, and causes often invite people to participate who have significant unresolved baggage, non-profit groups can devolve into non-functional stews of emotion and inaction.  Often well-intended people flee community work to avoid the toxic environments they find there.

This dynamic becomes aggravated when the leadership of a group lacks vision, experience or drive.  Having a clearly defined mission, with a plans and milestones to reach the mission are essential to encouraging healthy group dynamics.  When the leadership of a group lacks any of these, it’s easy for the group to sink under the weight of internal politics and nearly predictable that it will.

Life moves in cycles.  We need to know when it is time for something new and when it is time to let go of something else.  The inability to let go and move forward keeps us bound to the past, even when the past is little more than a corpse of something it once was.  History can be our teacher or our jailer, we almost always have the ability to chose which one.

04 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Fourteen years ago, while I was still in the Navy, I asked a lover to move out.  In what was not one of my most compassionate moments, I refused to pay for or drive a moving van that he could neither afford nor operate.  Over the course of several days he carried each of his possessions, one at a time, seven blocks uphill to his new apartment.  Aside from his return to my apartment every hour for another box or lamp, the process was so gradual I barely noticed it happening until there was nothing left and he was gone.
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I’ve repeated this process over the years with various friends or lovers.  At some point, one of us begins taking pieces of our emotional furniture to another location, one piece at a time.  It happens so slowly I’ve often missed it.  One day, we look around and all that is left are dents in the carpet and little wads of lint in the corners of what once was a relationship. 

At least for me, and some of those who I’ve loved, it’s easier to disappear slowly, slink out of the room, than it is to confront the problems facing us. 

I had dinner with a friend last night, and I realized I had been gradually exiting several relationships in my life, relationships I once valued but had chosen to vanish from rather than confront the conflicts that had arisen with time.  I suddenly felt like I was halfway up the hill to the new apartment, with part of my life in one place and part of my life in another, and very uncertain of whether I should be moving on or not.

I’ve learned in life that the single thing human beings can produce without limit is love.  Our capacity to envelope those around us in compassion and care is boundless.  Even so, I still find myself pulling back from loving others when it is neither necessary nor reasonable to do so.  It is as if a smaller part of myself suddenly takes control of the larger part.  When I recognize it, it feels shameful, as if I’ve stolen something that wasn’t mine.

I once heard a song that said “...the only measure of your words and deeds will be the love you leave behind when your gone...”  Many years ago, someone I loved made a mixed tape for me, something that somehow seems corny today.  I was listening to it last night and thought about those who’ve passed through my life and the love they left in their wake.  It’s something I hope I can do, that when I’m pass by, people remember me not for packing up and moving on, but for the love I brought with me and left behind.

06 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Sunny without being too hot and a light breeze makes for a perfect gardening day.  I continued clearing the overgrown garden I inherited with my apartment.  Years of neglect allowed blackberry vines to take over the yard.  Blackberry vines are especially thorny.  Some of the thorns go right through leather gloves. Three days of hacking, chopping and snipping and I’ve almost reached the back wall.  I discovered a lilac tree today.  The tree was so tangled with vines I hadn’t known it was there. 
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On one side of the garden is a house with no windows in its back wall.  The backyards in this neighborhood form a central courtyard closed off from the street.  Once I have the yard clear, I’m going to project a movie onto this blank wall, inviting the neighborhood to watch from their balconies and patios.

The somewhat funny story I promised earlier in the week:

Last Thursday was Ba-da-Bingo (we had over 400 people show up for the event).  I borrowed a fog machine for the show and on Monday night I decided I should test it to make certain it functioned properly.  I placed the machine on the balcony and fired a giant cloud of fog over the back yard.  One of my neighbors, seeing the smoke ran out yelling “I see smoke!  I see smoke!”  I calmly explained it was a fog machine; there was no need for worry.

The neighbor disappeared into his house and came out a moment later saying:  “That better not be pot smoke!”

I wondered how much smoke he thought one set of human lungs can hold...

Ideas for Road Trip 2003 have started to come in.  Edith indicates she may want to join in, and Becky has threatened to send Zoe to bite me if I don’t come through Chapel Hill.  Details are here.

07 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I am sitting in the living room, feeling very content that for once I am not rushing to eat my breakfast and get to the Quaker meeting.  I still have thirty minutes before the meeting begins, so I turn on the computer to check email and Microsoft is kind enough to remind me that daylight savings time has begun.  I wonder if I am the only Quaker who missed meeting today.
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Last fall I arrived at the Meeting House at 11:00 to find the doors locked.  I thought this strange until another Quaker explained that daylight savings time had ended and it was really only 10:00.

I grew up in Arizona – a state that doesn’t observe daylight savings time and I’ve never become used to it.  I suspect I’ll spend most of my life being pleased with the extra hour in the fall and slightly confused in the springtime. 

My project for the day is to complete the conversion of a closet into a small home office.  I took out all the shelving and painted yesterday, today I am off to get a new printer/fax/copier. 

What a travesty to think religion means saving my little soul through my little good deeds and the rest of the world go hang.” – Gerald Vann, The Heart of Man.

08 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I walked out the front door of my apartment this morning, pulled it shut to make certain it was locked and realized I left both my house key and car key inside.  Locked out of both the apartment and the car, I called the only other person who has duplicate keys.  He didn’t answer.  I called several more times and he finally picked up the telephone.  I hailed a taxi to take me to his house.  The cabbie was an older driver who ignored the constant clanging of the seatbelt warning as we drove and never changed out of second gear.
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“You know,” he said, “the worst part of being a cab driver is not being able to find a men’s room.  You ever need a men’s room?  Oh, that’s bad.”  He continued this singular line of thought for the entire journey.  “I suppose I drink too much caffeine, you ever drink too much caffeine?  Bad thing about being a cab driver.  You ever been a cab driver?  Oh goodness it’s hard to find a men’s room.”

Which, of course, may have explained the smell of the cab.

In a city feeling besieged by the homeless, it is often difficult to find a restroom open to the public.  Sometimes it’s hard to find a taxi, too.  I pointed out several bars that might offer easy access to the facilities and then jumped out and raced to the office.

Atheists brag that they can get along without God; this is hardly a distinction in an era where very, very few pay the Lord more than a Sunday call.” – Dogbert Runes, Dictionary of Thought.

09 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I don’t know if today was an exceptionally odd day or if I’m destined for an exceptionally odd week. 
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Yesterday, I locked myself out of the house and required the services of a bladder-obsessed cabbie.  Today, I broke one of my favorite glasses, discovered my brand new dress slacks were tailored four inches too high, my favorite tie appears in the mirror to be sadly outdated, and I sat through a client meeting that was peculiar and boring in a way I cannot begin to describe.

Tomorrow I’m slated to sign the papers completing the sale of my Tenderloin condominium at a substantial loss, but much to my relief.  Having reviewed the financial documents, I felt terrifically blue and decided that the cure would be to dine on sushi, take a bath and go to bed early.

A few years ago, I spent most of two years dating a wealthy, attractive and well- connected gentleman.  In his company, I met a lot of other wealthy, attractive and well-connected people.  Being neither wealthy nor well connected nor attractive by the standards generally applied in this group, I was the consummate fly on the wall, privy to the conversations, lives and interactions of people I would otherwise know only from rumor and speculation.  When the relationship ended, so did my E-ticket ride in the land of the A-list.

Wanting something different than the psychology textbooks I’ve been reading, I picked up a novel that has been gathering dust in the living room.  It’s by an author I know and whose life I witnessed during my A-list ride.  Reading it over sushi, I realized this was less a novel and more a recounting of life in the A-list with only the names of the people and streets changed to protect the real players.  It is fiction removed only a quarter step from real life.

I’ve written some fiction that doesn’t depart too much from life; I suspect a lot of authors do.  I’ve just never picked up a best-selling novel before and realized I know first hand most of the characters contained in the pages.  It was both startling and pleasing.  I’m going to take a bath, read some more, and hope the odd spell ends after two days.

12 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I am debt averse.  I’ve never been comfortable with debt.  I try to carry as little debt as possible and pay it down as quickly as I possibly can. 
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Two years ago I bought a condominium in San Francisco, which required I take on a great deal of debt - a quarter million dollars in debt, to be precise.  It was an amazing amount of money and I couldn’t quite believe that anyone would ever loan another person this much money, regardless of the credit worthiness of the borrower.

No matter how long I lived in the condominium, I could never quite shake my concern over the amount of money I owed.  There were people who said it would get easier with time, and it never did.  Whatever small pleasure existed in owning my own home was obliterated by the size of the liability.

After months of wrangling, I finally sold the condominium and the deal closed today.  I lost some money in the deal, but at the end of today, I owe one quarter million dollars less than I did yesterday.  Oh, and I don’t live in the Tenderloin anymore, either.

Becky mentioned the trees are in bloom in Chapel Hill, and they are here, too.  The sun was out today in full force and my garden is waiting for my attention tomorrow.  The windows are open.  Children are playing baseball across the street.  The cats are jumping and dancing as they chase the flying insects on the balcony.   Somewhere in the city, someone is celebrating having a new home, and so am I.

12 April - just slightly later

Extra time?  Look at Tails of the City - it's a fun fundraiser and you can vote for your favorite mouse.

13 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Unable to have children of their own, my paternal grandparents adopted two children – my father and his sister Mary.  Aunt Mary was always somewhat of an enigma to us as children.  She lived in Chicago and only once during my childhood did she come to visit us in Arizona.  Mary stayed in a spare bedroom with the door closed for much of her visit, leaving only to walk in the forest near the house or talk with my father.  It was also the only time in my life I can remember my father allowing someone to smoke on his property, and Aunt Mary smoked like a steel mill laboring with wartime production. 
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I was intensely curious about this woman and later she remarked to me:  “You were the strange kid I remembered who followed me around in the forest!”

When I was about twelve, my father took me to Chicago with him for a business trip.  While my father attended workshops and interviewed candidates, I was free to roam the city.  Aunt Mary came to the hotel and took me on the subway (a first) to her home where she proceeded to allow me to have wine (another first) and we laughed about my father.  (Mary was horrified to learn I had taken a bus by myself to the South side of Chicago.)  She was the coolest woman I had met in my entire life and I fell in love with her in a moment. The next night we ate dinner at the Hancock Building and her roommate, Denise, took me to Rush Street, which was quite the sight for a preteen boy from Tinytown, Arizona.

Aside from these two visits, Aunt Mary wasn’t invited to my parents’ home and my siblings never had the opportunity to know her.  I always assumed this had something to do with her last name – VanderWoude, which was different than ours.  My mother secretly told me Aunt Mary had been divorced – a crime that ranked only with smoking and using “Jesus” as a swear word – and homosexuality.

I left home and joined the Navy.  I started calling Aunt Mary and we had long conversations filled with laughter and conspiracy.  She told me stories about my father that I never heard as a child.  When I finally came out, Aunt Mary was the first person I told.  She chuckled and said: “Oh, I know.  All my friends here were just waiting for you to tell me.”  Then, for the first time in my life, it dawned on me that Mary’s roommate of sixteen years might be more than just a roommate.

Aunt Mary was a phenomenal woman and one of the strongest women I have ever met in my life.  She played French horn in a symphony orchestra and cared for men with AIDS.  She was mean and witty, hard and loving. 

In the early 1990s, Aunt Mary and Denise split up after near two decades together.  Mary began to slip into a depression.  Returning to port from an extended period at sea, I received a letter than Aunt Mary had taken her own life.  My father told me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer months earlier, something she never told me.  Mary was cremated and sprinkled over a lake while I was still at sea. 

I never was able to visit Mary while I was in the Navy – time and distance conspired to keep us apart.  Mary’s photo sits on my nightstand, and I think of her frequently.  She was my queer elder, her presence helped create a way for me to emerge from the shadow of my own repressive upbringing. 

Aside from Denise, I never knew her friends in Chicago.  Meeting them is something I’ve often thought about.  If you just happened to know Mary VanderWoude, let me know

15 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

There are certain beliefs we learn in our childhood that we surrender as we grow older.  Jobs that appeared exciting or interesting to us from the viewpoint of a child lose their luster when we learn the reality of an adult work life.  We learn that Santa and the Easter Bunny don’t exist, that not everyone can really be President, and that the world is not always fair nor just.  We accept that at certain stages of development believing certain myths or ideas have value, they allow our imaginations to flourish and insulate us from the truth of the world we inhabit.  We also accept that myths that may be appropriate at one stage no longer function as we mature. 
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One myth I often witness clients doggedly holding on to is that forgiveness and healing require confession and justice (which most often is vengeance).  The myth holds that before I can forgive, and likewise heal, those who have wronged me must confess, ask for forgiveness, and most often, also be punished.  The central point of this myth is that the key to forgiveness lays somewhere outside of ourselves and we can remain righteously indignant as long as they refuse to surrender the key.

Absent a request to forgive, it is easy to remain consumed by our anger, our rage, our powerlessness.  These emotions impact our lives and color our relationships in ways we are often blinded to in the most critical moments. 

The failing of this myth is often revealed when someone asks, in a manner genuine and heartfelt, and we still are unable to forgive.  Having handed us the key we desire, we find the tumblers of the lock remain fully engaged.

I read a study some time ago which reported on the post-execution reactions of families of murder victims.  The families were asked if the execution had in some way alleviated their pain or allowed them to move on.  In nearly every case the answer was no.

The power to forgive comes not from outside ourselves, not from demanding or punishing others.  Whatever benefits such acts may have, they most often cannot and do not serve as salve for our own pain.  The healing of forgiveness flows from within us, not from somewhere external.  It is in recognizing our own ability to release our white-knuckle grip on our anger, our resentment and our pain that we begin the process of forgiveness.  With a slow loosening that takes time and persistence, we can liberate ourselves.

While punishment, confession and requests for forgiveness have their place and reasons, we must look to ourselves for our own liberation and recovery.  Just as the doctor sews the wound, it is our body that mends the incision.

16 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I had a very odd experience today.
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I was at a large conference center east of San Francisco teaching for a client.  During the lunch break, while the students were still in the cafeteria eating, I was alone in the classroom preparing for the second half of the day.  The door opened and a man walked in – he was just over six feet tall, fairly solidly built, with graying hair and a heavy jacket (which in reflecting on it, was out of season for the weather).  He looked like a normal, middle-age guy and I at first thought he had wandered into the wrong classroom.

The man walked up to me and asked if I was the instructor for this class.  I said I was.  He then flew into an angry monologue about my client company, how this company was destroying its industry and the world at large. 

I thought at first this was a joke, something someone had set up to see my reaction.  I quickly became aware this wasn’t a joke.  I knew I was alone in the room with him and that he was between me and both the door and telephone.  His manner was concerning and I had no way of knowing what was in his coat (although that thought did not cross my mind until much later).  At the same time, I was completely calm.  Without thinking about it, I knew that I would take him down if it came to that and I had no doubt I could. 

I interrupted his tirade and asked him who he was.  This distracted him for a moment and he fished out a name badge that did not come from the facility we were at and then he rapidly put it back.  Then I firmly asked him to leave.  I don’t know what happened in that moment, but he looked at me and walked out the door.

During this interaction, I was convinced we were alone in the room.  My attention never wavered from his face and I was so focused that I noticed nothing else.  When he left, I realized that there was a student in the room – apparently the student had entered and was watching the entire interaction.  In a high compliment, the student remarked on how calm I had been – and without trying to brag – I really was, and that felt good.

Generally my work with clients doesn’t include such interactions.  If it did, I’d charge more than I do.

17April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I heard a radio report today about farmers in Arkansas courting Cuba as a potential new market for grain exports.  A spokesperson for the White House was firm this would not happen until Fidel Castro was toppled.
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Cuba is an amazing country.  Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, and he’s held power longer than nearly any world leader.  He’s held on to power despite an embargo, assassination attempts, biological warfare by our own CIA and the collapse of the USSR.  Moreover, reading either his books or his speeches, you rapidly see he is one of the most intelligent, educated leaders in the world. 

Despite years of severe economic hardship, the Cubans have achieved some amazing results.  The Cuban literacy rate is higher than the United States, more of their citizens hold post-secondary degrees, the infant mortality rate is lower and the life expectancy is longer. 

Visit Cuba and you’ll see an amazingly poor country.  There is little to spare on the island, and yet every citizen has housing, every citizen has health care and every citizen is fed.  Until very recently, every citizen was guaranteed employment as well.  Compared to nations of similar size and income, Cuba has achieved amazing social justice.

Over the years the Castro regime has had a mixed record on human rights.  For example, until recently Cuban queers haven’t always fared so well.  Then again, queers haven’t always fared well in the United States, where we still can lose our children, cannot marry, join the military and from time to time get killed by homicidal yahoos.  Set side by side with the human rights record of the United States, one can make a substantial argument that our country has little room to make accusations in this realm.  This is not to excuse the humanitarian failures of Cuba’s socialist government over the last 40 years, but rather to say that compared to the rest of the world, it doesn’t stand out from the crowd.

The United States tolerates and supports regimes around the world which are not democratic (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt for starters) and which violate human rights (Israel, Egypt, The Philippines, Malaysia, Columbia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia are just a few), two points we use to excoriate Cuba while ignoring the others.

The United States maintains its embargo against Cuba for one historical and one current reason.  The historical reason:  Fidel Castro ended the long-running American control of the island and seized control of its lands from our corporations, returning the land to the people.  The current reason is this:  Cuba, despite its crushing poverty, is an example that a socialist system can work, and if it had proper input, could probably thrive.

Cuba, despite its poverty and humanitarian failures, has achieved a remarkable level of social and economic justice while our own capitalist system continues to struggle to provide basic health care for a shrinking number of people, reasonable schooling for our children or food for our population. 

In short, Cuba offers the only viable counterpoint to the idea that capitalism is the highest achievement of human economic order.

19 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Foreshadowing:  Is it possible to fulfill two dreams at once?  It appears this possibility exists with the first major change to Road Trip 2003.  Details are still being resolved, but it appears two of my long-held fantasies may become one.
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Changing subjects to a bit of a rant:  In San Francisco, the word “digital” is synonymous with “improved”.  Any product or service that can be recreated in a digital format is considered superior to the original.  Technology is our omnipotent god, and to question the digital seal of approval is the eighth deadly sin.

Several months ago without planning to do so, I happened to see Ice Age in DLP – Digital Light Projection.  If you aren’t familiar with this, it’s a new way of projecting movies without using film.  Instead of film, the movie resides in ones and zeros on a disk somewhere and is sent through a special digital projector.  The theatre made a great show of this technology.  The manager came in before the film to announce how grand it would be.  There was a special opening bit trumpeting the technology.  With even greater fanfare, the movie began.  You can announce the arrival of a truckload of corpses with a marching band, but it’s still a truckload of corpses.

Watching a movie in DLP is like watching a video on your computer screen.  The colors are flat and lifeless.  More importantly, the entire screen is pixilated and grainy.  Detail in the background appears as poor JPG images rendered to prevent web piracy.  Maybe film breaks from time to time and acquires little specks and scratches with age, but at least the detail remains clear and true.  If I want to watch a pixilated movie, I’ll rent a DVD for my home computer.  When I got to the theatre, I want something better.

George Lucas is pushing movie theatres to spend buckets of money to install these new DLP projectors.  The next installment of Star Wars is digital, and its best viewed in DLP, he claims.  As my grandmother used to say with a sneer:  “Ha!

(Of course, grandma didn’t live to see DLP, and she wore glasses so thick she probably wouldn’t have minded the pixilation, and hearing aids so powerful she would appreciate the volume.)

Last note:  There is a new link on the Nifty Sites page.  If you haven’t yet seen Wendy’s journal, it’s worth a look.

20 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I had a wonderful day wandering the city with a friend, attending a concert and bar hopping.  There is more to tell, but it is very late and I have meeting in the morning.
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I took this photo of the Transamerica Pyramid from a window in Coit Tower today - the consummate San Francisco image.  (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

22 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I once was a prostitute. 

During my last year in the military, the Navy and I engaged in a long running legal struggle.  As a negotiating strategy, the Navy reduced my monthly pay to $150 a month – an amount insufficient to survive upon.  The Navy eventually lost the legal battle and was ordered to return to me the money they withheld, but during that year there times I wondered how I would pay my rent or find sufficient food to eat.
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I had a friend who was an established male escort.  Aside from publishing the occasional porn story in naughty magazines, his comfortable lifestyle was furnished entirely by his escort career.  He encouraged me to take up the same line of work and I did.

I had a trick the other escorts didn’t – I showed in uniform for a price.  Lots of people have fantasies about military guys.  I did a reasonable business and it was never as bad as one might think it could be.  High-end escorting isn’t streetwalking, and it comes with a different level of respect and finance.  The work kept me fed, housed and clothed for over a year.

This is not a part of my life I’m ashamed of, nor am I proud of it.  I don’t regret doing it.  From time to time, someone will ask about this part of my life and I don’t lie about it.  Prostitution has some difficult cultural baggage and when people hear the truth, they don’t always react well.  I’ve had dates and friends who didn’t return when they learned about this piece of my past.  Sometimes, looking into the eyes of someone who has just heard this news, seeing the judgment cross their face, I feel for a moment diminished.  I wish just for that moment that my life had taken a different path.  When that moment passes, I realize that given the chance, there is only one thing I would change in my past and this isn’t it.

23 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I’ve been busy with work and community projects this week, so much so that I’ve had little time to write anything of substance.  Thanks to a neighbor who decided to spray pesticide on an especially windy afternoon when I had my windows open, my head is a bit stuffy at the moment, too.
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A woman who is editor of a national magazine and director of an influential organization called my office today.  She was looking for my colleague, who happened to be in a meeting.  When I realized who she was, I introduced myself.  Astonishingly, she recognized my name, knew who I was and even some of my connections to the world.   Despite her semi-celebrity status, she was very friendly and warm.  I can see how people are attracted to her. 

I like people who can have a three-minute conversation with me and leave me feeling better than I did before I answered the telephone.  More importantly, I respect this woman a great deal and like many people I respect (a list which includes Fidel Castro, Michael Lerner, Anne Tyler, Carol Lynn Pearson, Michael Cunningham, Irvin Yalom and a few others) I never anticipated I would actually ever speak to her in person.  To learn she actually knew who I am was a compliment of the highest order.

There is a lullaby that says:  “The only measure of your words and your deeds will be the love you leave behind when you’re gone.”  I pray my measure in this regard is meaningful.

24 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

This week has been exceptionally busy.  Once again I find myself finishing work late in the evening with very little time to write.  The next three days are booked solid, so there may be even fewer updates before next week.
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My mother had a saying:  “Don’t put people on pedestals, they tend to fall off and hit you on the head.”  It was her way of warning us against hero worship. 

I was asked today who my heroes are.  Our culture likes to have heroes.  As a society we elevate people to positions of great stature.  When they fall we devour them like scavengers on road kill.  Hero worship is dangerous pastime and one I’m not certain has served us well. 

As humans, we’re all flawed creatures.  I’ve met some extraordinary people in my life.  What makes someone extraordinary isn’t that they transcend their human nature, but that they excel in spite of it.  I’m not a fan of the word “hero”, I prefer to think there are people I respect and admire for their work in the world.  They provide encouragement, not unachievable ideals.

Having role models is often a valuable way of seeing ourselves as we could be.  However, when we begin to divorce the person from their humanity, we encounter problems.  Just as we must dehumanize our enemies to effectively fight a war, our heroes can only stand in the harsh glare of stage lighting when their human nature is washed away.  In doing so, we also strip away our only true connection to the person they really are.

25 April 2002 (Comment)

Who wrote the rule that fund raising events must always be accompanied by dry, boring speakers who seem not to notice their audience has the glazed look of cattle waiting at the entrance to a slaughter house?  I’ll give you one guess where I spent my evening...

If Federal Express arrives on time tomorrow, something very exciting will happen.  I’ll tell you more on Monday.

My heart is with Becky tonight as she mourns the loss of her mother.  Be well, Rebecca. 

I won’t have the chance to write again until Monday.  Be well.  Give to everyone who begs of you.  And lend, expecting nothing in return.

26 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

It’s a good thing not to be attached to plans.  This is a trait I didn’t always possess.  There was a time in my life when I was not pleasant to be around when plans didn’t go as...well...planned. 
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The universe decided to test me on this point today.

Yesterday, I mentioned that a certain Federal Express package needed to arrive on time in order for an exciting event to happen.  I worked very hard on Wednesday and Thursday to make certain the package arrived on time.  Well, it did arrive on time, exactly, perfectly, precisely on time.  But, another part of the plan, one I never expected to shift...well...shifted.  And thus, the package is here but the exciting event must wait until Monday.

After a long week, I had also planned to take a small road trip to Monterey this weekend.  I was to leave this afternoon right after the aforementioned exciting event (which played a part in the road trip).  My traveling companion, however, had a change in plans of his own, and thus I was left to travel by myself.  One thing I know about myself is that I prefer traveling with company.  I’ll be staying in San Francisco this weekend.  It’s not such a bad change of plans, I really had my heart set on laying by a pool, and Monterey was a compromise when the weather report indicated anyplace with a pool would also include rain this weekend.

This happened last weekend, too.  I had dinner plans with someone.  I went to the restaurant and waited.  He never showed up.  I found out later he was called away on a family emergency and was stuck in a remote area without cell phone or email access.  Much to his credit, he did attempt to let me know before dinner, but modern communication failed to relay the message to my doorstep. 

I’m good at planning and coordinating, but I’ve learned that when plans go awry, to settle and wait.  As corny as it sounds, life generally sends something else in short order to fill the space. 

So, I’m here for the weekend, but I’m going to take a vacation from writing until Monday.  To repeat myself from yesterday:  Be well.  Give to everyone who begs of you.  And lend, expecting nothing in return.

29 April 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

The something exciting happened today.  I finally bought my Mini.
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I fell in love with Mini Coopers years ago.  Produced in Britain in the late 1950s as a remedy to a fuel shortage, Coopers were tiny and inexpensive.  They were available for a short time in the United States, but in 1968 highway safety standards limited them to foreign shores.

I don’t remember the first time I saw a Mini, in any case it was love at first site.  I wanted one.  As they haven’t been imported in nearly thirty years, so the originals are collectors items and expensive.

BMW bought Mini, and just last month started importing them to the United States.  I thought they would be too expensive for me to afford.  I was (pleasingly) wrong.

Very few people have seen a Mini, and a great many people have never heard of the car.  Today was fun – people slowed down to take a look, they crowded around it when I left it parked, someone saw me getting out of it and came up and introduced himself.  (“You’re cute,” he said.  I wasn’t certain if he was talking to the car or me.)  I don’t have a garage, so it’s parked on the street.  As I walked to my apartment, I could see people stop and peer through the windows.  I have to admit, I love being the first person to have a new gadget.

I was having so much fun today I was laughing as I drove.  I never understood people who are car enthusiasts until today.  I’ve had cars I like.  This is the first time I’ve bought a car and considered calling in sick for a week while I took a drive down the coast. 

Oh, and the motor home is out of the picture and the website will soon reflect the change. Road Trip 2003 is now being conducted in a Mini.  Goodbye onboard bathroom, hello Motel 6.

For Becky and Wendy, here is a picture of the Mini with the office dogs...
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Yes, I have taken leave of my senses.  I may not return.


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